(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.)|
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee coach Mike Munchak wants the Titans to rest up as much as possible now that they're finally getting a break.
Munchak put his team through a light workout Monday, then gave them the rest of the week off. The Titans aren't due back at work until next Monday when Munchak plans to put them through a practice in preparation for a visit to Jacksonville (1-8).
This is the latest bye for this franchise since the open week went into effect in 1990, and Munchak said he prefers the bye at the midpoint of the season.
Still, the Titans (4-6) can rest easy.
A week after being put on notice by the owner, they responded with their biggest win of the season - beating Miami 37-3.
``It's just something we need, mentally and physically because of what we've been through,'' Munchak said. ``I'm glad we won it because we needed it. It will be a lot easier to mentally be more positive when we do come back. I think we will be fine.''
The Titans are banged-up with 11 players listed on last week's injury report, not counting right guard Leroy Harris, who became the 11th man on injured reserve this season Nov. 7. Receiver Kenny Britt hasn't missed a practice, though coaches limit his playing time as he recovers from three knee surgeries over the past year.
Linebacker Colin McCarthy has been limited by a right ankle he sprained in the opener, and he had his first interception this season in the win over Miami. He plans to spend this week resting and relaxing hoping the time off his ankle helps him when they return in a week.
``Week to week, it's up and down as far as how it feels so hopefully this week we'll see what happens,'' McCarthy said.
The Titans didn't stick around after finishing up a mandatory meeting in the afternoon.
``It's a long season,'' linebacker Akeem Ayers said. ``We been going 10-plus weeks of just football, a lot of meetings and everything. Just to get a little time off and come back refreshed the last six weeks will be good for us.''
Munchak made clear to his Titans before they left that they still have hope when they return. Aside from the AFC's division leaders, only two teams have more than four wins in the competition for the two wild card slots. The Titans already have a win over Pittsburgh and will visit Indianapolis (6-3) on Dec. 9.
``We know we have to win three, four games in a row to kind of get it where we need to get it,'' Munchak said. ``That's not going to be easy to do. Hopefully, we use it to a positive.''
The way Tennessee played in Miami is what Munchak and his assistants expected this season. The defense forced four turnovers after getting nine the previous nine games combined. They did not give up a touchdown for the first time since Nov. 13, 2011, which also is the last time the Titans won a game by more than six points.
Offensively, Jake Locker shook off some of the rust in his first game since Sept. 30. He got better as the game went on with his left, non-throwing, shoulder surviving a hard hit. He also showed off his ability to scramble, and Munchak said Locker played fearlessly, which is what they hoped they'd see.
``He's exciting to watch, and I think it is contagious when you have a young guy like that running around making plays,'' Munchak said.
Chris Johnson ran for 126 yards for his 24th career game with 125 yards or more. Only Eric Dickerson has more games (27) in his first five seasons. A team that ranked last in the NFL in rushing in September has moved up to 17th, and Johnson is second in the AFC with 862 yards rushing on 170 carries, trailing only Arian Foster of Houston (872 on 221 rushes).
``He knows he's going to get 15 to 20 to 25 runs now, so I think his mindset is a lot different,'' Munchak said of Johnson. ``He's just running more relaxed and confidently.''
Munchak gave his Titans this week's schedule a couple weeks ago so they could plan ahead. McCarthy said they understand they have six games remaining when they return.
``A lot of excitement throughout the team, excited to get back and make a run these last six games,'' McCarthy said.
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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker